Anatomy of a Startup Profile: Quirky

Is This the World’s Most Creative Manufacturer? (Quirky)Inc

By Josh Dean, Inc., October 2013

Josh Dean, a frequent contributor at Inc., spotlights the amazing and innovative creations of Quirky.

  • Compelling founder story – Quirky founder Ben Kaufman has a lot going for him as a subject: His first startup was an iPhone/iPod accessories company Mophie, which his parents funded with a second mortgage when he was a 17-year old, not-particularly-high-performing high school student. That company was sold for a tidy sum, and at age 20 Kaufman was named the #1 under-30 entrepreneur in Inc. Today, he’s just 26, has no college degree, owns 100 of the exact same black Banana Republic t-shirt.
  • Founder track record – Kaufman’s prior company, Mophie, was one of the top iPhone accessory companies.
  • Personal reason to launch startup – His experience with Mophie must certainly have played a role in creating Quirky, but this is not addressed specifically in the story.
  • Unmet need – Helping people turn their innovative ideas into products with revenue.
  • Timeliness – There appears to be no specific timely element to the story. This is not uncommon in Inc., which has a long editorial lead-time.
  • Quick comparison – There are no quickie comparisons made for Quirky, although its coming retail presence is described as being the most exciting thing since the Apple store.
  • Disruptive – Quirky is reported to have the potential to change how consumer products industry operates. An example of its impact is its partnership with GE, which is going so far as to open up its patent portfolio to inventors looking for new ways to create and/or refine ideas.
  • Clear value proposition – Absolutely 100% yes. The article clearly states the Quirky’s goal is to “strip away every single barrier to entry that stands between a regular citizen with an idea and the result, a fully developed product that can be marketed and sold to consumers.”
  • Referenceable clients – Many big name companies are working with Quirky and selling its products, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Fab. In addition, GE executive director of global brand marketing Linda Boff says: “What we love about Quirky is their commitment to invention, their speed to market, and that they get this amazing community to help think about the everyday problems that all of us have.”
  • Client stories – It’s not enough to simply name companies that are clients. Startup founders need to have a great case study of success. The most noteworthy one is Jake Zien, creator of Pivot Power powerstrip (will be the Quirky’s “first millionaire”). He is quoted in the story saying “I never could have done this myself.”
  • Metrics – Quirky shares many different metrics in the story, with a call-out box showing the following: revenue ($18 million in 2012, $50 million in 2013); $97 million in venture capital; 2,000 invention ideas weekly; 500,000 community members; 100 items for sale; top product is 665,000 units sold; and150 employees). They also report that no products have lost money, although the company loses money every day.
  • Trendiness – There are a number of trends in the story: It is building products for the “connected home.” It uses “predictive analytics” about what will sell. It is focused on “storytelling.”
  • Third-party endorsement – A Target executive is reported to having said “Nobody is innovating at the pace Quirky is.”
  • Healthy skepticism – Products tend to be “cheap and gimmicky.” Kaufman “oozes confidence, almost to a fault.” Questions ability to be at all levels of consumer products – mass-produced and cheap, limited run and expensive. Building physical stores is “a risky gamble that has sabotaged other successful companies.”

For more information on the Anatomy of a Startup Profile series, click here.